July



Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament... Hear us.
Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Funny Guy Friday.....He said what?

    This past Sunday, we had a visiting Priest from Africa. He was there to collect money for missions in the Congo. Our Priest made the initial announcement, and this seemed to irritate our daughter Grace. Why, you ask? She thought it was silly to collect money for this Priest's condo.
    "Not condo, Honey... Congo." We laughed through the rest of Mass.
    This got me thinking that Church has provided plenty of fodder for FGF. For example...
    For four of the last five years, I have had the opportunity to take Matthew to Boston for a game or two at Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play. After one such trip, we came home in time to get to church. As luck would have it, we had a visiting Priest from the Boston area. He gave a homily about some topic that I do not recall. Typically, we will talk about the homily on our drive home and this Sunday was no exception.
    Matthew mentioned that he knew that the Priest was a Red Sox fan, and I agreed, but wondered why he brought that up. He told me that the Priest had mentioned Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis three or four times during Mass. I could not recall exactly what the Priest had said, but I did know he never mentioned Kevin Youkilis. Matthew insisted that he had. After several minutes, we realized that the Priest had been talking about the Eucharist.
   This gave me an idea that I stole from Red Sox fans. They yell YOOOOK every time Kevin Youkalis does something on the baseball field. I thought that we could yell EUUUUCH every time the Priest mentions the Eucharist at Mass. Like many of my great ideas, it was vetoed by Cheryl.
     About five years ago, we went to Mass and were then invited over to my in-laws for breakfast. We were there with a few of their friends and Matthew asked for a drink with his breakfast. I told him he could have some orange juice. After this exchange, the conversation turned to the church and the Mass we had just left. For some reason, Matthew became increasingly irritated at something. I asked him what was going on and he just kept getting worse.
    At this point, I took him into the other room and sat him down to get to the bottom of the problem. His response took me by surprise. He told me he did not like the Pope. Really, the Pope, you don't like the leader of the Catholic Church.
   "No, not that guy," he said, "I don't like the stuff in the orange juice. "
   "That would be pulp, Knucklehead... Now go get yourself some milk."
    Then there is Noah and his sign of Peace. For weeks, I have been trying to explain that a good firm handshake is important and that he should look people in the eye when he is addressing them. Last week at mass, he got my attention and reached out. I was sure that weeks of explanation were going to pay off and I was going to get a good firm shake.  Unfortunately, I got a fist bump followed by a hand explosion.
    This should not have surprised me, as Noah has displayed other violent tendencies at Church. On Christmas Eve, we arrived very early, but we were prepared with paper and colored pencils. He spent a great deal of time on one drawing and we assumed it was a  picture of the manger scene, or Jesus on the cross.
    Yeah, not so much... His holy drawing was of a person getting shot on the altar. I will  admit, if you took away the murder scene, the altar looked pretty good.
    I suppose that things are going pretty well when I can make fun of my kids about things that happen at Church. We are blessed to have three great kids that are faithful to their religion. They never complain about going to Mass or their religous education classes... Even if they don't always get the message exactly right.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Right to Life March...

     As I stood there on the Mall, in the whipping cold on Monday, I realized exactly why I was there.
     If we do not stand up and say, "Enough," who will?
     Tens of thousands of people, young and old, from all over the country, marched for life on Washington that day... to do just that.
     The aim of the day wasn't about social programs or political parties (although the Republicans in this Congress did say they will rightly work to eliminate taxpayer-funding of abortion).
     Most people went to the March for Life simply to stand up and affirm that pre-born life deserves lawful protection from slaughter. Period.
     It was about shining the light on the unborn... something many in this nation lack the moral courage to do. We know they lack the political courage.
     And of course they went to the March to pray.
     To pray for the victims... unborn and grown.
     And of course, to pray for an end to the atrocity, mistakenly accepted as a necessary evil, that has led to the killing of more than 5o million babies nationwide, and millions more worldwide.
     I was touched by the women, and men, who courageously stood up to say they regretted their abortions. They said they were told at the time that this was a "solution to their problem," but that it had only brought on greater problems. They said that they had been the "consumer"... and they were there to tell us that "the product is no good!" The audience brimmed with love and support for each one of them.
     It is time for more sunlight. Time for telling the truth. Time for guiding the many regretful consumers toward the forgiving arms of the Father.
     It is time for healing.
     It is time for life first.
     Enough of the horror that we have allowed to shroud our nation in death.
     Enough of the justification.
     Enough of the self-indulgence and reliance on self only... the elevation of material comfort over life itself... the disregard for Natural Law... and the distrust in God's providence.
     Enough of the lies.
     Enough of the very act that I still try to shield my youngest child from knowing exists, for even children know it to be included in the stuff of nightmares and horrifying side shows.
     Enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... The Geek Squad v. the Basketball Squad

     Our daughter Grace started High School this year and was accepted into a program called STEM. It emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The good news is that she will be taking classes that will give her the knowledge that she will need to get a job in our technologically advancing society. The bad news is that her Dad cannot possibly help her with any of her homework and I doubt I will have much in common with her friends in the program.
     I have an entirely different skill set... one that has very little to do with Science, Technolgy, Engineering or Math (although as a lawyer, I can divide any number by three to determine a one-third fee). You see, I was good in sports, and history and English. These differences have made for some interesting experiences.
     The students in the STEM program have several opportunities to display their projects to us parents. I am always incredibly impressed with the results, but because of my knowledge, or lack thereof, I am probably not the best judge of such things.
     When I was in ninth grade, I put celery in colored water and documented the water as it climbed through the stalk. As I recall, I thought that was brilliant. What made it even more impressive was that I did it while being treated with leeches by my family physician. I mean... that is how long ago that stupid celery project seems to have been.
     The first time that Cheryl and I attended a STEM exhibition, we sat in on several classes, and each class displayed some clever project. One class created a ball throwing machine. It could throw volleyballs, footballs or any ball of a similar size and weight. They set it up in the cafeteria and roped off a section for the kids to load the balls, throw the balls and catch the balls. I sat and watched in astonishment for several minutes.
     As I walked away shaking my head, Cheryl assumed that I was impressed with the machine. Actually, I could not have cared less about that machine---I have seen plenty of cool pitching machines in my day. The truth was that I was dumbfounded by the fact that none of the kids knew how to catch. That is simple to me, and therefore it should be simple to them. I assure you, it was not! Balls were bouncing off of their heads, their chests, and their hands. To be honest, they should have been wearing safety goggles and helmets.
     This past week, we attended a program where students were put in groups of five and were required to devise a machine that could sort marbles. They created a contraption that drops a marble onto a track. The marble is stopped and evaluated by a light to determine its reflective properties. Based on those properties, the marble then rolls down the track and is deposited into the appropriate compartment. The compartments are on a sliding track and move in order to collect the appropriate marble in the correct compartment.
     There is no way in the world that I could have developed a computer program that could do those types of things. To me, this was a remarkable achievement. Five fourteen year old kids put this together. Very smart kids that were amused by my stupid questions and comments.
     Grace's group's project got off to a slow start as they did not have a power source. The lack of resources was described by their teacher as a real life problem. Apparently, stealing that power source from another group is a real life solution. I suggested it!
     Once they were able to commandeer the appropriate cable, they took off. The preliminary practice round, of which I had a front row seat, was nearly perfect. The only hitch was that the aluminum marble and the steel marble both got deposited in the steel marble slot.
     The marbles looked alike, so I advised that they should just say they were both steel marbles and call it a day. I suggested that the scientists that developed the global warming theory made up their data to support their theory... why couldn't these youngsters cook up their results. Heck, sometimes you have to break a few rules to make a scientific point. Just a real life example of solving a scientific problem. Fortunately, they did not take my advice. 
     The teacher running the program is a terrific teacher. He is energetic and enthusiastic about the subject. He seems to be able to take difficult concepts and make them fun for the kids, and thus, easier too learn. He talked about how hard the kids worked and that his focus was on both the process and the results. However one thing he said made me chuckle. He said that the kids were very excited and "you have never seen or felt the type of energy and excitement that the kids are showing over at the exhibit."
     Really! Never felt that type of energy. Are you kidding?
     Although what they did was impressive... at the end of the day, they were just sorting marbles. Sure it was in a very cool engineery-type way, but I would think that the locker room in the gym where there was a basketball game going on probably generated a little bit more excitement and energy. I mean those kids had to figure out how to get a bouncy round object through a small circular goal elevated ten feet off of the ground---all the while there were forces standing in the way of the stated objective, as well as other distractions. At times those forces happen to stand about 6 ft. 6 in. and can jump higher than the above mentioned circular goal, and the distractions are called cheerleaders.
     How do I know this, you ask? About three quarters of the way through the engineering program, I may have left and wandered off to the gym. I was able to catch the first three quarters of the game. Double good news---Gracie got an A on her marble project, and the home team beat their local rival. Everybody went home happy! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Golden Hymn Book...

     If you haven't yet discovered the Golden Hymn Book, you can link to it from my sidebar, under Food for the Soul, just below the Daily Readings.
     This little hymn book is a lovely treasure of hymns and poems from 1903, written with old-fashioned verbiage... not everybody's cup of tea... but I like it. It reminds me of simpler times. Uncluttered. Quiet. Plain and clear.
     Just before I read the Readings of the day, I say one of the morning hymns aloud. As I go through the book, hymn by hymn, I will undoubtedly add to my routine the evening hymns as well.
     But for now, I will greet the morning with a song, and ready my heart for the Word.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Commit to change... Family time right before bed...

     Each week I will be making little changes for my life, that I hope and plan will become new habits. And at the end of the year, where there was once chaos, there the Lord will be.
     I am... I can... I ought... I will.
     So, last week I committed to keeping a clean kitchen, and for the most part, I did. The weekend brought some disarray, but isn't that why God created Mondays? To reset?
     I asked my family to get in on the commit to change game, and pick something they would also like to change for the week and beyond. I suggested posting it, if necessary, on the bathroom mirror as a reminder. Simple things like, "Turn off the light when you leave a room," or, "Hang up your jacket," or, "Put your keys in the same place each day." Simple changes can make a big difference.
     Matthew thoughtfully announced that he would be sure to put his shoes in the front hall closet upon entering the house, instead of kicking them off all over the front hall. That's the spirit.
     Funny Guy said his change would be to have me iron all five of his shirts for the week on Sunday night, so he wouldn't be scrambling every morning. Good one, honey.
     As for Gracie and Noah... Gracie announced that she would opt for wearing her hair curly this week, as a change from her usual straight. And Noah, my six-year-old, thought he would change it up this week by starting each day with a steamy cup of joe.
     So maybe they didn't quite get what I was after. Or maybe they just take after Funny Guy.
     My change this week involves the whole family. Each night before bed, we will gather in our family room, as we did last night, and laugh and play and talk before going off to bed. Let that be the last thing we do each day. Unrushed. Happy. Together.
     Last night before bed, Funny Guy ironed a shirt for himself.
     As for everyone else... This morning, I found sneakers in the front hall. Gracie's hair is curled, and Noah asked for some coffee for breakfast. Maybe tonight, during our family time, I will go over this commit to change thing one more time.
  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... The Winner and Still Champ (sort of)...

     Over the course of our eighteen-year marriage, Cheryl and I have had our share of arguments. I would guess that we argue less than most, but we have our moments. This past weekend, we had a doozy that will go down as one of the worst arguments we have ever had. It is with great caution that I share the details with you in this week's FGF.
     First, a little history. When we do argue, I will either say something very sarcastic that hurts her feelings, or I will just walk away without any resolution. Neither method helps resolve the issue and both tend to prolong the argument. In addition, I feel horrible and have to apologize for the sarcastic comment and/or the walking away in the middle of the bout. This past weekend was different. This past weekend, we were trapped in a car, so I had no walk-away-option and I don't think my minimal comments were even in the same ballpark as sarcasm.
     At this point, you may be wondering, What was so important that would cause an argument between these two lovely people... and then why would he share it with the world (or at least the eight people that read this blog)?
     Was it about politics? No. Was it about religion? No. Was it about Cheryl's desire to homeschool the kids? No. We have agreement on all of those silly little issues. No... this argument was over a topic that dwarfs those issues.
     This argument was over the sport of basketball.
     More specifically... whether or not our son's six-year-old basketball team should switch baskets at halftime or not! That's right boys and girls... an argument that was right in my wheel house, and one that I could not possibly lose!


Ding Ding Ding..........
     In this corner, we have the reigning undefeated Champion---standing 5 ft. 4 in. and weighing real close to what she weighed when she got married (see, I really do love my wife). She can be deceptively cool and calculating for one that appears to be soooo nice. For the most part she wins her arguments because she has the facts to support her position. But when the facts don't support her, she effectively wears her opponent down with verbal barrages that can go on for several minutes without her ever taking a breath. Incredible stamina. She lives by the credo that the best defense is a good offense, as she gobbles up great lengths of time explaining even the simplest theory---all the while preventing her opponent from getting a punch, er uh, a word in edgewise. Oftentimes, when it comes time for opponents to muster up a response, they have forgotten what the argument was about in the first place.
     And in this corner we have the Challenger, standing just a smidge under 5 ft. 9 in. and weighing exactly what he weighed when he got married. Years of legal training have prepared him for courtroom battles, but nothing in his lifetime has prepared him for the Champ. Easily frustrated, he often resorts to ineffective shakes of the head and eye rolls. Although funny, his sarcasm only results in short term success, and ultimately contributes to his inevitible doom.

     On Saturday, six-year-old Noah had a basketball game. I kept score on one side of the gym while Cheryl and the other parents watched from the other side. After the game, we got into the car and she mentioned that the parents were discussing that kids at this age should not have to change baskets after halftime because it is too confusing. I drew upon my years of experience in both playing and coaching sports and made the simple comment that they have to learn sometime.  Unbeknownst to me, these five simple words amounted to the first punch!
     The Champ countered with a verbal barrage citing several reasons why the switch should not occur at the half. Actually, she only gave one reason, confusion, but she gave it several times with several examples and explanations. Believe me, she did not tell me anything that I did not already understand as soon as she had said that it was too confusing for the youngsters.
     As hard as it is to believe, I understood her argument, I just disagreed with it! This was not one of our more complicated topics. All of my attempts to counter punch and explain my position were deftly deflected by the Champ's onslaught.
     When she was finished, I was exhausted, so I thought that I would concede. Lovingly, I said, Okay, you win, they should not have to switch baskets after the half. Okay, perhaps I was a bit condenscending, and not as loving as I should have been but either way, I was raising the white flag.
     I would love to hear someone say, Okay, you win, after I make a passionate, if not, long-winded argument. I don't care if my opponent is being condenscending or not, a win is a win.
     Not so much with the Champ.
     Apparently, after eighteen years of marriage, I still don't understand that it is not about winning or losing. If you thought that the first five words got her going, the thirteen words that began with, Okay you win... set her off like a windmill in a tornado. Now she was on a roll---a roll that lasted for several minutes. Followed by the worst of all---silence!
     Typically, I would feel bad at this point, but this time, I didn't think that I had done anything wrong. I had lost, I had conceded, and I lived to fight another day. Believe me, if there were punch counters counting words at this argument, the score would have been Champ, several thousand... the Challenger, seventeen. TKO Baby! The Champ keeps her crown!
     We continued on to Matthew's game and things seemed to get back to normal after a few minutes. Okay, maybe more than a few, but things eventually got better. When we got back into the car after Matthew's game, we were alone because Matthew had gone home with a teammate. Cheryl then explained that it is not about winning or losing or keeping score, and that she did not want to hear that They have to learn sometime. I asked if she was upset that I said that they have to learn or that I said that she won. The answer was, of course, both.  
     Then the darndest thing happened---the Champ started having a conversation with herself about the whole thing and then she began to get a bit irritated and then she continued to argue, not with me but with herself.
     I never thought that someone could interrupt herself, or stop herself from making a point with a quick counter point, but there she was punching and counterpunching with herself. It was as if she got bored with winning arguments with me, and had decided to move on to a new challenge.  
     At this point, I was just a bystander looking on with amusement as the Champ waged a civil war. In the midst of this, Grace called and asked what we were doing. I told her that I was driving home, but Mom was having an argument with herself.
     Cheryl kept the pressure on herself as she continued the argument throughout the telephone call. She was spectacular. It was like a computer game where you can pick a boxer and then have that boxer fight himself. It was a tough argument to judge, as both Cheryls made some good points.
     I often say that I married the nicest person that God has ever put on this earth, and I say that because I mean it. Cheryl is that nice. As I listend to Cheryl v. Cheryl, I realized that it is silly to argue with her because I cannot win no matter what the topic. It has taken eighteen years of marriage, but I have finally reached this conclusion. From this day forward, I will no longer argue with my wife.
     Funny, if you think about it, I was right all along, you do have to learn sometime! Score one for the challenger! That brings the score to Champ-857... Challenger-1. Of course, I realize that it isn't about winning and losing and keeping score but for the record, I was right!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Burst...


 Our friend Kevin wrote a book called Burst.
     I have not read it yet, but my friend Sam read the first draft and said, "It is life changing." 
     I just preordered it. I can't wait until it comes out.
     Click on the picture of the book in my sidebar for the link to Amazon.com.
     Kevin also started a blog... Bursts. God bless you Kevin!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Milton Friedman on free enterprise...

Out of the archives, but still just as relevant today...

Thanks Romantic Poet.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Commit to change... I will clean my kitchen...

     I got this idea over at my friend Amy's blog, who was inspired by Simplicity Parenting...
     Make a small change each week.
     This goes right along with my desire to commit to change this year. And by year's end, where there was once chaos and weakness, there the Lord will be.
     Amy's family is using the Simplicity Parenting template... which has great ideas for small changes, but I have my own agenda, based on my most pressing needs.
     This week, and from now on, I will start my day with a clean kitchen. As with many homes, the kitchen is often the heart of ours.
     No more piles of dishes. No more food left out. No more unfolded laundry on my beautiful table.
     This is where my family goes first when they return home. It ought to be ready to greet them. Starting today, I will make it so.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hail, Holy Queen...

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished 
children of Eve, to thee do we send
up our sighs, mourning and weeping

in this valley of tears. 
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us; and
after this our exile show unto us the
blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;
O clement, O loving, 

O sweet virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the 
promises of Christ.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... The Twelve Days of Christmas...

     When I was a kid, I used to think that it would be really cool to be Jewish. I didn't really know much about the religion, but I thought it would be nice to celebrate Hannukah. Plus, I already knew that dradle song.
     Like most kids, I was not too excited about giving up hot dogs, but I was intrigued by the thought of receiving presents for eight straight days. Those Jewish kids had it great, and as a bonus, most of them told me that they also celebrated Christmas. Heck, I would wander aimlessly in a desert for forty years if I got to celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas.
     Tonight I came home and was pleased to find out that the Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a song, but there are really twelve days of Christmas. Unfortunately, today was number twelve. Cheryl explained (and has blogged about) each day bringing a new activity. She also advised that starting next year, we are going to start new family traditions and we are going to celebrate all twelve days. I am totally back into being Catholic because twelve is better than eight and I get my dogs back!
     I knew something was different when I walked into the house and smelled the unmistakable smell of a cake baking in the oven. Wow, what is the occasion? I asked. This was Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the three kings to see the Baby Jesus! We were going to have a feast. Great, Cheryl is into this... we are getting something good tonight.
     I like feasts, so I anxiously asked what we were having for dinner? Imagine my surprise when she replied that she got so busy making the cake... and then the kids came in... and, well, they got involved in the cake... and well, er uh, she forgot to make anything for dinner. But the cake will be delicious. Does anybody know the difference between feast and famine? The answer is simple-----FOOD!
     Fortunately, Grace managed to rustle up some chow, and put together a delicious Joe Corbi pizza. Not to be outdone, Cheryl popped open a can of apple sauce. She did offer a special gourmet touch of cinnamon on top, so there was that "feast-like" touch. Perhaps a little more Cooking Channel and a little less blogging may be in order for my wonderful wife.
     Anyway, when it came time to cut the cake, Cheryl advised that she had baked a special prize into the cake and whoever got that special prize was the winner. Grace thought that Cheryl had baked a little Baby Jesus into the cake. I have no idea why Grace would want to bake the Baby Jesus, but this is what she thought!  Again, I got very excited about the special prize and thought could it be gold, frankincense or myrrh. If not one of the actual three gifts brought by the wise men, perhaps it would be some symbolic item representing those gifts.
     The special prize turned out to be a walnut. Why a walnut, you ask? So did I, and the answer cleared everything up. She put a walnut in the cake because she could not find a bean. I did not ask for an explanation, I just figured it was our first crack at actually celebrating this day, so we have to still work the kinks out.
     Next year, I may just buy her a small, baking-safe Baby Jesus to throw in the cake. I found it fascinating that the kids were so intent on finding the the super walnut that they barely ate their cake as they stabbed it looking for the magic walnut. After all, a special prize is a special prize.
     Finally, there were presents. Who knew? Certainly not me, so I had nothing for Cheryl. Imagine my shock when we each got three gifts, including Cheryl.
     You know... for months before Christmas, I asked her what she wanted, and always got the same response, "You don't have to buy me anything. I have everything that I need." Although this is probably true, it did not give me much guidance. At 6pm on December 23rd, I told her I did not get her much, and she chose that time to rattle off fifteen things that she would like. It was too late.
     Epihany provided a second chance for her to go and buy herself three of the things that I did not get her. She is so cute, she wrapped them and acted surprised when she opened each one.
     As I sat and watched everyone open their gifts, I decided that next year, we would not actually need twelve days. The way things go around here, twelve days is asking too much anyway. I thought to myself, How can we streamline this nearly two week celebration into something a little more manageable? 
     My first thought was that we could cram twelve days into four days. We could start the first Thursday after Christmas and get two days worth of celebration in on both Thursday and Friday. Then we could come in on the weekend and finish with four days worth on Saturday and four more on Sunday. This gives us more time to Epiphany shop, decorate, and bake.  This additional time would also allow Cheryl to purchase those special Epiphany beans instead of having to fall back on super walnuts.
     On second thought, if we are going to do that, I may as well go back to my original plan and become a Jew. They seem to have it just right with eight crazy days.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmastide meditations and activities...

     Life moves so fast for me, and sometimes it is only after the fact that I become aware of the rich treasures just waiting for my discovery. So I will tuck this link away for next year... and I will make the very most of Christmastide from now on.

 
The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany (January 6th; the 12 days count from December 25th until January 6th). On the updated calendar — since Ephiphany is celebrated on a Sunday — these days may be more or less. We have 16 days on the tree this year because the Christmas season extends until the feast of the Baptism of Christ and we have decided to include them all.
     The origin of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures. In the Western church, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated as the time the three Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus. In some cultures Epiphany is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings. Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, Epiphany is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

 
Catholic Culture invites you try out some of our suggested activities as you gather around the Christmas tree. We hope you will find some ideas that will enhance your family's celebration of this holy season.


Saint Bridget's vision of the Nativity...

     As we wrap up these 12 days of Christmas, I have taken some time to reflect upon that first day of Christmas, and the birth of Jesus.
     I just found a site called The Clay Rosary Girl (thanks Amy), and there I found a post called Vision of the Nativity. I had chills.
     According to Clay Rosary Girl, the background story is that Saint Bridget of Sweden made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When she reached the birthplace of Jesus, she knelt down to kiss the very spot where Jesus was born. This was when the room disappeared and she had this vision...
     "When all things were now ready, the Maiden knelt down with great awe and began to pray.  She turned Her back to the manger, but lifted Her face towards Heaven and looked to the East.  And with hands uplifted and Her eyes towards Heaven she knelt without moving, wrapped in divine sweetness.
     "While She was thus absorbed in prayer, I saw That which was in Her womb move, and in a moment She gave birth to Her Son.
     On other accounts of her vision, it has been written that Saint Bridget saw a light pass through Mary's womb at the moment Jesus was born. He lay on the ground pure and clean, free of any soil. 
     Saint Bridget's vision continues...
     "And so much light went from Him that the taper in the stone wall no longer gave any light...
     "But when the Maiden felt that She delivered, She bent Her head and folded Her hands, and with great awe She adored the Child and said to Him: 'Welcome, my God, my Lord, and my Son!"
     "Then the Boy wept and trembled with cold on the hard floor, and stretched out His little hands to His Mother, and She took Him up and laid His cheek against Hers, and Him to her breast with joy and great compassion.
     "And She sat down on the floor and laid Him on Her knees and began to swathe Him first with the linen cloths and then with the woolen pieces, and at last, wound the whole about His little body, legs and arms in one swaddling cloth, and swathed His head in the two woolen pieces that She had brought with Her.
     "St. Joseph threw himself upon his knees, adoring the Child and weeping for joy.  And in the Virgin there was no weakness as in other women when they are delivered.  She stood up with the Child in Her arms, and She and Joseph laid Him in the manger and adored Him with great joy.  And then I heard wonderful sweet singing of many Angels.
     May your Christmas joy and adoration last the whole year through.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Herod never found the baby Jesus...

    "There was a reason Herod never found the baby Jesus. He never went looking for Him. You can't find Jesus sitting on your couch." ~ Father Dan
     I started thinking about Herod. Why did he not go find the Child himself? Too busy? Lazy? Accustomed to others doing his leg work? Maybe he wouldn't have wanted to be so near the Christ. After all, Herod knew Who this Child was... and Who He was to be. 
     The "King Herod" from the time of Jesus's birth was Herod the Great. He was a ruthless, barbarian tyrant, who killed anyone who threatened his position as king. He was responsible for the slaughter of the holy innocents, among many other people, including family members... even his own sons.
     The "Herod" from the story of John the Baptist was Herod the Great's son, Herod Antipas. He loved to listen to John the Baptist, but he refused to obey his message. The Baptist had warned that it was wrong for Herod to take his own brother's wife, Herodius, as his lover, so he had John imprisoned. Herod had John executed to please Herodias's dancing daughter, with whom Herod was so delighted.
     He also cooperated with Pilate in the execution of Jesus.
     Both Herods were wildly consumed with the seven deadly sins... pride, jealousy, avarice, lust, gluttony, anger, and sloth.
     Jesus is the antithesis of these men.
     No wonder they wanted nothing to do with Him, but to destroy Him.
     Yesterday's Gospel told the story about the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus had just been rejected in his own hometown, by those who should have known Him the best. The feeding of the five thousand immediately follows the recount of the execution of John the Baptist.
     So, Jesus left his hometown, and taught and ministered to other towns nearby. When He and his friends left, word got out where they had gone, and the people, in their spiritual hunger, went to find Him. And they were part of one of the most famous miracles in history.
     Spiritually hungry? You won't find Jesus sitting on your couch.

Where is God in suffering?

     In my last post, I talked about what Father Dan told us about change beginning with me, but another thing he said is that we should always ask, in every situation, "Where is God in this?" He will be there if we let Him in.
     I know that God works all things for good for those who love Him. I believe that because He said it is so. I have what some call blind faith. So that is enough for me.
     But I asked a friend how you can explain it to those who suffer, when you can't always see it. She forwarded this article that explains it beautifully. The author refers to his struggle with cancer, but it could apply to any suffering.
     Thanks Joanne.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Changing myself requires a commitment...

     Last night, I had the privilege of attending an evening of reflection, where the guest speaker was a priest named Father Dan. A good friend of mine who knows him characterized him as a "go-getter of souls." He is that. Unhesitatingly.
     Father Dan said many thought-provoking things that I am sure touched everyone in attendance, but this post is about one in particular.
     He told us that a great philosopher was once asked, "What is wrong with the world?"
     The philosopher replied, "I am."
     It is I who needs to change.
     Father Dan went on to tell us that if we ask God to help us with the area we most struggle with... if we sincerely commit to cutting out, with the help of God's grace, the one area that is the cancer in our lives... by the end of the year, it will be gone.
     But we have to mean it. And commit to ridding our lives of whatever vice afflicts us by praying for the opposite virtue. At the end of the year, where the cancer once was, there, the Lord will be.
     Father Dan went on to assure us that God will speak to us about the very thing we are struggling with, through conversations, homilies, chance encounters... God will use everything... if we only will listen... and see.
     I heard Glenn Beck on the radio this morning, and he told this story:
     "There was a man who decided to change the world. He was unsuccessful. So he decided to change his country. But again, he was unsuccessful. So he decided to change his city. But he was unsuccessful. So he decided to change his community. But he failed. So he decided to change his neighborhood. But he did not. So he decided to change his street. Again, he did not. So he decided to change his family. But he could not. So he decided to change himself.
     "At this, he succeeded. And by changing himself, his family changed, too. And when his family changed, so did his street. And then his neighborhood. And then his community. And then his city. And then his country. And soon, he had changed the world."
     It's the same story.
     What's the problem with the world? I am. The change will begin with me.
     God is speaking to me already.
     This year I will commit to changing myself. I will change my life. To be what God intended me to be.
     Father Dan said if you put a hot coal into a pile of cold coals, no matter what the other coals think, or what their attitudes are, they can not help but be ignited too.
     Change yourself, and see what happens. Commit to it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Road Less Traveled...

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...
I took the one less traveled by...
and that has made all the difference."
~ Robert Frost ~
My family. Together along life's path. 
On the road less traveled.

Photographs by Erin Granzow.

The Prayer...


The Prayer
Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion

I pray you'll be our eyes, 
and watch us where we go, 
and help us to be wise 
in times when we don't know. 

Let this be our prayer 
when we lose our way: 
Lead us to a place, 
Guide us with Your grace 
To a place where we’ll be safe. 

La luce che Tu dai (The light that You give us) 
I pray we’ll find Your light 
Nel cuore resterà (will stay in our hearts) 
And hold it in our hearts 
A ricordarci che (reminding us that…) 
When stars go out each night 
L’eterna stella sei (You are the everlasting star). 

Nella mia preghiera (In my prayer). 
Let this be our prayer 
Quanta fede c’è (there's so much faith) 
When shadows fill our day: 
Lead us to a place, 
Guide us with Your grace, 
Give us faith so we’ll be safe. 

Sognamo un mondo senza più violenza 
(We dream (of) a world without more violence) 
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza 
(A world of justice and of hope). 
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino 
(Everyone give your hand to your neighbor), 
Simbolo di pace e di fraternità 
(Symbol of peace and brotherhood) 

La forza che ci dai (The strength You give us) 
We ask that life be kind 
È il desiderio che (is the wish that) 
And watch us from above. 
Ognuno trovi amore (everyone may find love) 
We hope each soul will find 
Intorno e dentro sè (around and within himself) 
Another soul to love. 

Let this be our prayer 
(Let this be our prayer) 
Just like every child 
(Just like every child) 
Needs to find a place: 
Guide us with your grace 
Give us faith so we’ll be safe. 

E la fede che (And the faith that) 
Hai acceso in noi (You have lit inside us) 
Sento che ci salverà (I believe will save us).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Funny Guy Friday... Relaxing Ski Getaway...

     We just got back from a "relaxing" ski vacation. Three days at Wisp Resort, at my sister's place near Deep Creek Lake. About five years ago, we decided that skiing was going to be our family thing. Cheryl and I both had skied a few times but not in about twenty years. We figured that this would be an activity that we could all learn and do together. Since then we have been to Mt. Batchelor in Oregon, Sugarbush in Vermont, and Shawnee Mountain in the Poconos. But, for the most part, we spend our time skiing at Wisp in western Maryland. Did I mention that my sister has a place at Wisp?
     Although we go to different places, the story is always the same---our relaxing vacation is anything but relaxing for me.
     First of all, after we bought her her own skis and boots, Grace decided that it is not going to be our family thing because she hates the cold, the falling, the lifts, the discomfort of the boots, etc. If we can figure out how to ski in June, July and August, she is in. Until then she wants out. Despite her hatred for skiing, we have, in the past, forced her to go along because this is what families do. She would humor us with a run or two, but then she would hit the lodge with a laptop and some hot cocoa.
     This Christmas, Grace finally got a cell phone, and two seasons of the show Psych. She assured us that she would be very happy to stay back at the place and text and watch the same show for 48 hours. We reluctantly agreed. So, it was off to the mountain with Cheryl and the boys.
     If you have never skied before, it is a great workout. Not the skiing... that is easy. No. The workout occurs before we ever make it out of the parking lot. Each skier, and by each skier, I mean me, needs to get his/her heat packs for their feet and hands. Each skier, and by each skier, I mean me, needs to make sure they have their gloves, ski masks, helmets and goggles.
     After each is fully clothed, the boot experience begins. Ski boots are not comfortable and the bindings need to be tight. Very rarely does a skier, and by skier, I mean me, get the bindings right on the first try. They are always too tight, too loose, too uncomfortable. After several tries, we, and by we, I mean me, get them comfortable enough to start the trip from the parking lot to the mountain. We, and by we, I mean me, carries the skis and the poles to the mountain. By the time we get started, I am usually so hot that I want to ski naked. My family convinces me that this is not a good idea.
     Once on the mountain, we need to get everyone where they need to be. This time, Noah took a two hour lesson so we had to find his instructor. We did, and off they went. After two hours, this genius of a ski instructor advised us of two important facts. First, Noah likes cookies, and two, he does not know how how to turn very well so we should avoid runs that have other people. Maybe we could go back in June, July and August when we can be sure that nobody else besides Grace will be skiing on the mountain. Thanks, Mr. Instructor but we already know both of those little nuggets of information. Perhaps fewer cookies and more turning practice would have been a better allocation of time.  
     Matthew and Cheryl are a perfect pair as they are comparable in skill. Of course, Matthew is more of a daredevil and will always win the race. His goal is to get to the bottom while  Cheryl likes to weave back and forth while taking in all the sights and sounds. They both make it to the same place, but in a different fashion. I think that this is a microcosm of their lives, as Matthew will say what he needs to say in as few words as possible, and Cheryl... well let's just say that her stories tend to ramble back and forth telling you all the sights and sounds.
     Actually, as it turned out, Noah did great as he weaved in and out of trouble. He even sang and danced his way down the mountain, at one point declaring that he was skiing with his eyes closed.
     At the end of the day, the process reverses itself and we, and by we, I mean me, lug all of the stuff back to the car. As I marched back to the car, exhausted, I thought to myself that a Psych marathon may not be such a bad idea next time we head back to Wisp for a relaxing vacation.
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